To stay in the pulpit, preachers need more than a ‘good sermon’
Since preaching is so important to us, I am always amazed at how few families encourage their sons to go into preaching. That is reflected in the general view among those institutions that train preachers that not many young men are preparing to preach. Many college students want to be youth ministers or family life ministers, but not many want to fill the pulpit.
Preaching is not an easy task. The challenge of deciding on a subject and then knowing the audience well enough to make the preaching applicable make the job very hard. Often the person doing the preaching is expected to be a spiritual counselor, a marriage counselor, a grief counselor and to visit the sick and all the wayward members.
I have not preached much, but I have preached enough to know that a message that draws people closer to God takes time, serious study, deep reflection and continuous prayer. Preachers I respect tell me that preparing a sermon takes 20 to 30 hours.
For a very long time, I have urged that churches protect the time of their pulpit men so that they can study deeply and continuously. When a man has to endure a stream of visitors and regular phone calls, he cannot dig into the Scriptures so that he is filled with knowledge of God and the understanding of the challenges of spiritual living. When a preacher is expected to care for every need of the church, he will have to settle for superficial preaching that is merely entertaining and not life-giving.
If a church is blessed with a preacher who believes that he is called to the highest work among mankind, then the church should be sure that he has a salary that provides him a living standard comparable to other members of the church and the community.
Fortunately, most churches have realized that preachers should prepare for retirement. A wise church should have a systematic plan for helping its preacher invest for the future. Furthermore, I think that a preacher needs adequate vacations to connect with his family and to find the revival and renewal.
Church members also need to provide moral support and encouragement. I am not suggesting that we put preachers on pedestals the way we did in the decades following World War II.
When regular gospel meetings were part of the tradition of churches, I heard many preachers who were popular on the meeting circuit. Today, most preachers are not known outside the city or country where they preach.
But we all have a chance to know the preacher for our congregation. We should share our appreciation or our thoughts about their teaching regularly. A simple “good sermon” as we leave the building is not what I have in mind. I am thinking of taking a break with the preacher to explore ideas with him and to share ideas about presentations or content.
For many years I have advocated sabbaticals for preachers and other church workers filling jobs that make heavy intellectual and spiritual demands.
Although many think a sabbatical is a prolonged vacation, it is a time for focused development of insights or skills. If the preacher’s teaching is regularly reviewed by elders or others who have responsibility for the spiritual development of the church, it will be obvious how the time of the sabbatical should be used. If a preacher is sounding more like a sociologist or psychologist than a person in touch with God’s spirit, then a time of serious Bible study should be planned. A time for intense Bible study or graduate courses in Bible may be useful. If the preacher is sounding the same week after week, then training sessions on presentations would be helpful.
I believe that God’s kingdom can only flourish when our worship is nurturing our relationship with God and other believers. Because preaching leads to greater knowledge and inspiration to know God more fully, we must value godly men who study and teach.
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